Posts Tagged ‘Family’

What Will It Take 6-7-15

In this sermon I explore the opposition that Jesus faces early in his ministry as the experts try to explain away his deeds and discredit his message, even going so far as to saying that he is possessed by Satan. This story is found in Mark 3:20-35.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/what-will-it-take-6-7-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

There have been many times in the past that people have asked me “Pastor, what’s your favorite Bible story?” or a similar question of “What’s your favorite worship service through the year?” It’s difficult to narrow it down to any single event or story, because there are a lot of great ones, but if I was to try and offer any sort of answer to that question, I would have to offer my top 3, and say that they all sort of count. 2 of them are pretty obvious, Christmas and Easter…and the third one is the day of Pentecost.

And likely the reason that I love these three days and Bible stories so much is because the event that we celebrate on each day is just so unexpected. Who would ever expect God to become human…and yet at Christmas, that’s exactly what happens…And then, after God has become human…who could ever anticipate, even with a ton of warnings…that God would die…much less be raised from the dead? And yet through Holy Week and Easter…that, is exactly what happens…And then finally, who would ever expect that the power of God would flow through the world to embolden and in some way, even empower regular people to do amazing things…and yet at Pentecost, that’s exactly what happens.

And as today is the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, that particular one should be pretty fresh in our memories…complete with my warm fuzzy feelings of having led worship and preached on that amazing story…except that I don’t have those warm fuzzies…because as you may recall I was gone on vacation that weekend…Bummer…

But then I read this week’s gospel lesson and I remember thinking to myself…wow…this sounds sorta familiar…this sorta sounds like Pentecost…just a touch anyway…because here we have someone…empowered by God, well, because it is God in this case…proclaiming the gospel that the kingdom has come near…and not only that but he’s been performing amazing deeds, displaying the power of God within him, as he casts out demons and heals the sick over and over again…attracting large crowds…and within those crowds…dissention…opposition…and finally…people who make incredibly bizarre statements trying to explain away what’s going on. (pause)

Sounds about like Pentecost right? (pause) Maybe today’s lesson is God’s way of offering me a make-up date after missing Pentecost.

Here we are, quite early on in Mark’s gospel…coming back around to Mark after quite a few weeks away from it…and now, here at the beginning of the season of Pentecost, as we slowly march through the theme of the church growth through the ages…we see Jesus, early in his ministry…he really hasn’t been around the block that long, but he’s making a stir…attracting attention…and with it, of course, opposition.

And I’ve often sat and wondered why…what is it about the gospel that Jesus is proclaiming that’s so darn offensive…or scandalous…or controversial? (pause)

There must be something…because the opposition that he’s facing here is pretty major…we hear that his family has come to try and slam the brakes on what he’s doing…even going so far as to saying “he’s out of his mind.” (pause) And then…to add insult to injury…the scribes come in from Jerusalem…these individuals who are the EXPERTS in the law of Moses…EXPERTS in the proper theology of the day…these guys come in…to make the final ruling.

Because think about what Jesus has been doing…in addition to preaching a simple message that the kingdom has come near…he’s been healing and casting out demons…and huge crowds have witnessed it…and no one can discount that he is, in fact doing these things…he’s no simple charlatan putting on parlor tricks…and so they’ve reached two possible conclusions…that either this is some dark magic, or its from God…but when the experts come in, and they find teachings contrary to what they’ve always believed…well that can’t be right can it…and so they deduce that surely he is possessed of Satan…the lord of the demons…and THAT, is how is does these things (pause).

Isn’t this all a little crazy as we sit here and think about it today…to think that the so called experts in the things that pertain to God would mess this up so badly…would mis-interpret, or mis-judge what they were witnessing…and perhaps even more shocking than that…that Jesus own family and friends from his hometown are trying to do the exact same thing…these are the people that should be supporting him…and yet they don’t…and because they can’t explain it away…they make excuses…which to me anyway, seem really petty and foolish…and so as I read this story today and think about this confrontation, I find myself wondering just what is it about the gospel of Jesus Christ that they find so offensive? (pause)

Whatever it is…whatever irritates these people so much in this story…this story that happens so early on in the ministry of Jesus himself…it hasn’t gone away.

Sometimes its easy to forget about the opposition to the Gospel…at least it is for me personally. I get to stand here in front of you week after week and talk openly about the Good News of Jesus Christ…I get to speak openly about the nature of confession and forgiveness…about how God became human…lived, died, and rose again and not worry that someone is going to stand up and debate me…or worse yet…accuse me of being possessed by the mortal enemy of the one that I represent….but I’m here preaching to the choir as they say.

But what about those times when we step out of these doors. Let’s face it, most of spend all of a couple hours a week inside these walls and we live our lives out there…among everyone else. Sometimes, inside these walls, we forget that some people disagree with us. Sometimes, inside these walls, we forget that some people don’t care about the message of Christ. Sometimes, inside these walls, we forget that some people think we are delusional…crazy…paranoid people that cling to a ridiculous notion that there is a loving God out there that chose to take our place in death and punishment.

But don’t be fooled. We live in a world that is, unfortunately, very cynical. We live in a world filled with people that have turned their backs on the savior of humanity…some of them know and some of them don’t…and that is a sad, sad reality. A reality that the church has faced since the beginning…and a reality that God has faced much longer than that.

The reality, both 2000 years ago and all the way through our history up to today, is that some many people will go to any lengths to discredit the Gospel of Jesus Christ…any length. Whether its presenting scientific proof that the world is millions of years old…or to say that no amount of squinting our eyes shut tight and sending out our positive brainwaves towards the giant policeman in the sky will ever change things for anyone…there are people who will oppose us. They may do it in pleasant debate and conversation, or they may ridicule our beliefs by calling us weak minded fools and Bible beaters and church freaks, or they may do it by hijacking a plane and flying it into a building killing thousands of innocent people.

We can ask the question all day long…Why God? Why does Jesus offend? Why aren’t people open to the best news…the news despite our brokenness…despite our inability to overcome our own sinful natures…despite all that you chose to live and die so to overcome it. WHY!?!

(pause)

This is an age old question. Why is something that seems so simple and so wonderful so hard to accept? What will it take to convince these people? When will it be enough? When will they come around? Will they? Are they doomed? Is humanity as a whole just too far gone?

(pause)

This is a question that has been around for a very long time…its been around since the foundation of the church through Jesus and disciples…and it occurred within the days of the prophets as well…and we hear from the prophet Joel many years before Jesus lived that “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on ALL people.” ALL PEOPLE. Men, women, young and old, slaves and free…ALL PEOPLE…In the last days.

But what do we do in the mean time? How do we get from now till those last days? (pause) Well today, Jesus simply tells us to do the will of God…and the funny thing is that in Mark’s gospel, the will of God is never revealed…and about the closest thing we get to answer for this question is simply to follow Christ to the best of our abilities…and yes we will stumble and fall…we will have our failings…and when we do we simply confess them and cling to the grace of God for forgiveness. (pause)
We do this each and every day…and one day people will understand. One day people will stop making excuses…they’ll stop poking fun…they’ll stop the snide comments…they’ll stop the hate because they’ll understand the love…the love of God in Christ Jesus…ONE DAY!!!
And so we pray for that day…and we ask that God would pour out his spirit upon us now…a spirit of boldness…a spirit of patience…a spirit of understanding…but most importantly a spirit of love for our neighbors…for those neighbors that do not understand…for those neighbors that are still offended by the good news.

We pray that this same spirit would fall upon them so that they would understand…and just as 2000 years of our church history has done, we continue to stand strong in the faith that God has granted…living in the promise that God has given us that he is always with us…and will always be with us…despite the opposition that we face. And be encouraged because it is exactly these times that the Spirit is…at…work…in and through you. If it was not true then the church would have died out with those first followers of Christ. If the spirit was not at work, then the church would not exist…but look around…you exist…the church…exists.

So don’t sit idly by…listen to the Spirit at work within you. Use the gifts that the spirit has given you…let God use you…and one day…one glorious day…every knee will bow and every tongue WILL confess…that Jesus is Lord.

Amen.